March 20, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Eliminates Key Hamas Terrorist Commanders in Rafah

March 20, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Eliminates Key Hamas Terrorist Commanders in Rafah

Latest Developments

An Israeli airstrike killed five senior Hamas commanders in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on March 20. The fatalities included Nidal Aleed, the head of Hamas’s Rafah Emergency Bureau; bureau operatives Sayid Katab Alkhashash, Osama Hamd Zaher, and Muhammad Aud Almelalakhi; and Hamas operations officer Hadi Abu Alrus Kasin. The men “managed Hamas activity in humanitarian zones and were responsible for coordination with Hamas operatives in the field,” The Jerusalem Post reported. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that an operation to eliminate Hamas in Rafah is key to defeating the terrorist group, which attacked Israel on October 7.

Expert Analysis

“Hamas is seeking to hold on to Rafah in southern Gaza in order to exploit the city’s strategic position along the Egyptian border and control aid entering Gaza. Hamas is using its ability to put gunmen on humanitarian aid trucks to control the aid. This enables Hamas to exploit the suffering of civilians in Gaza and threaten their livelihoods. In addition, Hamas’s control of the border area exacerbates a potential humanitarian crisis. The terrorist group must be removed from Rafah so that it can no longer threaten Israel and Gazan civilians.” — Seth J. Frantzman, FDD Adjunct Fellow

“Throughout the war, Israel has consistently shown exceptional intelligence-gathering skills in locating and targeting key Hamas leaders. By effectively neutralizing these high-ranking terrorists, Israel is disrupting Hamas’s command structure and weakening its ability to orchestrate attacks in the Gaza Strip. This strategic approach is gradually pushing Hamas toward collapse as the group struggles to maintain control and coordination among its fighters on the battlefield.” Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Hamas Control of Humanitarian Areas

On March 13, the IDF said it eliminated Hamas commander Mohammed Abu Hasna in Rafah, who was “taking control of humanitarian aid and distributing it to Hamas operatives.” Over the last several months, footage has shown Hamas operatives frequently seizing control of aid trucks entering Gaza. In addition, armed gunmen killed 21 Gazans seeking to obtain aid in mid-March. To prevent Hamas from taking over humanitarian aid entering Gaza, Israel began a pilot program on March 12 that saw six trucks enter northern Gaza through a new land route. “Palestinians in northern Gaza have received UN aid distributed through local tribes and police, in an effort to prevent overcrowding during deliveries,” The National reported on March 17.

Israel Coordinates Airdrops of Humanitarian Aid Into Gaza, Bypassing Hamas,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Warns Gazans Against Cooperating With Israel on Aid Delivery,” FDD Flash Brief

IDF Targets Hamas Terrorists Using Shifa Hospital as Command Center,” FDD Flash Brief


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